Interesting article. I admire him for having a vision and adhering to that vision.
A couple of his comments do make him appear to be a bitter old man, though.
A couple of his comments do make him appear to be a bitter old man, though.
They don't make 'em like Gordon anymore. In some way he reminds me of Canadian Hockey icon/legend "Don Cherry" - also a straight shooter - take or leave it - he says what he has to say and you get the message loud and clear (even between the lines stuff is pretty clear). I like Gordon's current choice in speaker in his home - proof he puts his money where his mouth is.
You mean that angry litany pointing fingers at everyone? I loved it and he outdoes my dad for scathing criticism which is pretty hard to do. I think he does have a serious point that Stereophile/JA and others are deaf to, which is concerned with the question of how close are we to the sound of reality as we would hear it live. Many people would just as soon not have to answer that question. It is nice to have good "appealing", musical sound as an audiophile but its nice to be working toward accuracy to the source material as well.
Gordon is not bitter. In fact, I would characterize him as playful and curious. I spent a lot of time with him and Steven Stone in the 90s. I would have spent a lot more time with him were it not for his smoking.
As for these comments, I agree completely. He came to prominence because of his insight and candor and he remains relevant for those same reasons. HiFi today is about egos and sound effects, politics and greed. During the 80s audio started drawing real money and it attracted an unsavory and corruptive element who dominate to this day.
The good news is that there are some very creative and inspired young-uns rising beneath the radar. See if you can find and appreciate them.
maybe now they will do blind testing. i really hate it when somebody says that this is the best something that they have ever heard. this is so bogus. they need to hear the gear they are auditioning in the same room using the same other gear or it is worthless. when they say that this $50k unit is better than these other $30k unit, i want a blind test. I don't think they want to pick the cheaper unit or they would look bad.
"Audio actually used to have a goal: perfect reproduction of the sound of real music performed in a real space."
Was this really the goal of all audio endeavor? I'm sure it was Holt's goal, but I wonder how many really feel the same way he does. We can only REproduce what's on the recording, which in most cases contains nothing like "the real thing".
I think his anger towards audiophiles is misdirected; he should be angry with the recording industry. But in the end, he outs himself as actually angry with the Baby Boomer generation.
The Boomers have ruined his world. No wonder he's bitter.
I cannot take Stereophile any more serious than I do TAS. It now just seems the most paid the better the sound. Do any of you really take their reviews serious at all? I would rather read the reviews here from real people that have paid good cash for their audio systems. Without advertizing dollars from manufacturer's pulling the purse strings with most reviewers.
He speaks the truth about the baby boomers being the most self absorbed, destructive group of humans ever to exist.
I just turned 50, and I am innundated with AARP shit. Read it over and the theme is the same: ME ME ME. I want my discount, I want what government "owes me". I refuse to join those narrow minded bastards for a senior discount on coffee.
Too many of the boomers have degraded into just another special interest group- like we ain't got enough of those.
That 60's generation that was going to "Change the world" ? They changed it alright. For the worse.
There, I feel better now.
There is still hope...I as a young person would love to see some things get back to the way they were...and personally I will not pick up a copy of stereophile, to me it just is overloaded with adds and no one talking about the music anymore. I don't care how much your system costs, I care about what it sounds like.
Armstrod, he means within the abilities of what is recorded. And as all of those with 'great' systems know, what has been recorded has been "incredible" on countless occasions- way better than what the average audiophile listener can even imagine. Gorden just hates to see a W-l--n deliberately varying from accurate just to 'Sell the sizzle'. I agree with him 100%. Truth is best.
Audio death by boomers? No, it will be the Ipod. I am a boomer with nephews in their twenties. They aren't interested in audio, none of their friends are interested in audio. They are interested in downloading music from the internet into their ipods, period. I subscribed to Stereophile during the Holt days.
Since the only measure of sound quality is that the listener likes it, that has pretty well put an end to audio advancement, because different people rarely agree about sound quality. Abandoning the acoustical-instrument standard, and the mindless acceptance of voodoo science, were not parts of my original vision.What a wise words! Sadly audio is one scientific application where the scientific method has lost the battle in the hands of ignorance and charlatanry.
Amem, Jaybo. The carrot is too far away now to entice us as it once did. In the early 80s I had modified Hafler DH 200 amps which set me back some $400 plus each. Naturally I dreamed of the several thousand dollar Levinson or Threshhold or Rowland amps and could imagine somehow owning them. Today's youngster is using an Ipod and keeping a vast store of music on his (or her)computer, never even thinking about multi-thousand dollar component audio systems. The cost of assembling something better than their computer and Ipod is well beyond imagining, especially since they are living in a bedroom in their parents' house.
We have ever more manufacturers vying for a piece of an ever diminishing pie. It's sort of a metaphor for our world of depleting assets and burgeoning population. Everything has a breaking point.
Danlib1, you are obviously a scholar and a gentleman.
Otherwise, JGH poses an important issue in front of us. I admire what he did and what he stood for. However, not all of us have to have the same priorities or opinions. I spend my money and pursue my hobby the way I want to...
1) not so that I can listen to all the warts on my most unplayable CDs but hearr them better than on my neighbors' systems,
2) not so that I can listen to the utmost in fidelity in music RE-production where I do not necessarily appreciate the original,
3) not so that I can get satisfaction that out of all my records, this particular iteration does the best in RE-producing what the recording engineer heard with his own ears as he was testing mike placement.
I do spend my time and money on music and system so that i can enjoy the REcordings I have and I discover. If I wanted to enjoy ONLY live music, I would not even have a transistor radio. As it is, I don't, but I have an iPod, and a stereo, and I am willing to listen to clips of music shared off one earpod on someone else's MP3 player in order to listen to something new. Stanislav Richter, Glenn Gould, Janos Starker (to me) are worth listening to, and I can't do that live. And if I choose to listen to music at 3am, because it soothes me, I can. And if I want to spend my Saturday listening to 5 different conductors leading 5 different orchestras playing 5 different version of Holst's Planets, then by heaven, I can. So sue me.
Aren't hobbies supposed to be fun?
I am curious does anyone know what gear Gordon Holt owns and currently uses at home? I know what speakers he uses already but I lost track of the other pieces after he left Stereophile. Given his strong opinions and vast experience and the fact that he has no affiliation anymore it might be interesting to compile a list of what does he use himself (rather than slam the baby boomer generation...)?
Or does nobody care...is Gordon completely irrelevant in todays audiophile world of "lush" and "sugar-coated" sound.
JGH's column was breath of fresh air! Whether one agrees or not is secondary to finally hear some good old-fashioned bitchin'! Can anyone remember when HP used to rip into letter-writers back in the day? Prior to then the most kicks I ever got from a letters column was from Penthouse!;) HP should try to find his lost pair of stones!!
My solution to the spiraling cost of high-end gear and the hijacking of our hobby by the lunatics and nouveau riche is to rediscover the joys of playing the sax. There is simply no comparison between the timbre and freshness of my alto with its reproduction on my audio system. Afer listening to music for an hour or so on the stereo, I simply cannot wait to get down to the basement to play some more.
And the more time I put into my playing, the less time I feel like sitting in front of my stereo. Does this mean that I have lost touch with the neurosis that makes so many audiophiles easy marks for manufacturers and reviewers? I hope so.
JGH represents, IMHO, that group of folks around when HiFi was a group of DIY hobbists who had far more interest in 'sound' than in music. Train's and planes anyone? Lots of fun experimenting in those days.
His holy grail of 'live music' as a goal is virtually unobtainable and when seriously pursued only results in the expenditure of lots of money and frustration.
Todays 'hobby' is about collection and synergy which will result in a system which results in its owners satisfaction when listening. Its not about perfect replication about recorded sound....so what.
IMHO, JGH is in fact a frustrated old man why has see 'his' hobby devalued. Whats new! Lets talk about 'digital v film' 'dark room v computer' photography for examply. Personally I still like film and darkroom, but I ain't bitching about digital. I just bought a digital camera...and I love it (for what it does well). Ditto for many other hobbies and professions as well.
is Gordon completely irrelevant in todays audiophile world of "lush" and "sugar-coated" sound.
Today's audiophile world is a lush and sugar-coated sound? What components/speakers precisely are you referring to?
I have been to three major high-end audio shows in the past two years, and nowhere was a lush and sugar-coated sound to be heard.
Why don't you start with sharing what the speakers are?
According to the grapevine, Gordon Holt is happier than the proverbial pig with his ATC SCM 50ASL's. I also read somewhere that he had Sound Lab electrostatics in the past (may still have them for all I know). I am more curious to know what other gear he uses - does anyone know?
I guess there are still a lot of people who still follow the old chant"Holt, in whose ears we trust".
Hey, he is over thirty you know!
Do you still trust his old ears and his old style beliefs? Especially you young Gen X'ers?
In the old days he would diss all the Harry Pearson raves and Tas would have a field day counter-punching.
Who was right?
I think both magazines have morphed into one and have taken over the void left when Stereo Review folded it's tent.
Hirsch, Holt, Pearson, Atkinson, so many audio reviewers to criticize and so little time.
Hey folks, get a grip, it's just info-tainment.
you could put an ar xb on a marantz receiver on a pair of boston acoustic A100's in a hotel room at THE show or RMAF, and pretty much impress the daylights out of everybody. the hobby has come off the rails, and i don't think it will correct itself......hundreds of other cheapy wonders could compete as well.
Today's audiophile world is a lush and sugar-coated sound? What components/speakers precisely are you referring to?
I would not dare list any components, as this would bring on an onslaught of verbal abuse. I suspect most people on these forums would agree with your statement "nowhere was a lush and sugar-coated sound to be heard".
My statement was simply intended to paraphrase Gordon Holt's views.
Let me explain...
If you read his recent rants (internet or magazine articles) he fears that most audiophiles have forgotten what real sound is like, conditioned as it were to the polite sound by market forces and reviewers that sold out to a new approach: nice sound.
According to Gordon, it apparently all started more than twenty years ago with the "BBC dip" in the mid range which became immensely popular and showed manufacturers what to do and how to increase sales over competitors. The "BBC dip" gave a more laid back or polite sound; less sibilance, less edge and less immediacy. Gordon believes this was the start of the new movement towards "nice sound" rather than the previous movement towards "accurate sound". Previously, in his mind, the audiophile world had mostly been about accuracy but since the mid 80's it has drifted towards finding a nice flavor for one's tastes.
Correct me if I am wrong but this is the way I interpret Gordon's past statements and especially in a couple of recent articles I have seen by him. I think Gordon actually uses the word "lush" in one recent article but I may be incorrect and he may never have actually used the word "sugar-coated", which would be a bit of hyperbole on my part ;-)
Here's what I would like to see happen. At the next major audio show have attendees sign up for a 45 minute listening session. This way, 20 or so people could get in and out of the room, with 15 minutes between for the change over and a short break for those running the A/B/x blind testing.
Data is collected over all sessions, collated and made available to attendees at the session's conclusion. A black audio friendly sock or curtain hides the equipment being compared. Only after the sesssion is completed are the identities of components, be they amps, interconnects, speakers, whatever, are revealed. Settings for sound pressure levels are predetermined so that they are reproducible ahead of time so that when switched, there is no difference in soudn level in the A/B/X testing.
Let's put this to rest once and for all. I's not about preference, it's whether real people with a real interest and with real ears can tell the difference. And lets do this a number of times at different shows to negate the independent variables associated with venue, rooms, associated equipment, climate, barometric pressure and quality of local drinking water.
What will it tell us? It will tell us that people can discern small differences that are real in some, but not all, components, tweaks, settings. BUt those that are discerabel and those are not will be the main subject of the next debate, and this in itself will help fuel the fire to keep this hobby alive. It will be educational and will help manufacturers get some of the market research they should have for future product development and innovation.
Blind testing would be great but will NEVER happen, the powers that be have many well crafted arguements against the blind test to save their jobs and the hobby as a whole.
If people bought with their ears and not their eyes the house of cards would crumble so it remains a case of if you want to THINK it sounds better it will, and in the end I suppose there are no real victims but it is a bit pathetic that so many smart people can be so taken.
All you youngins'... talkin' 'bout my ge-generation... can eat scat.And Mr.Holt can as well.On a tangent here I know,but the truth,unvarnished,is that in America each successive generation has, and continues to, become the 'most spoiled' generation ever.And save your flamethrowers as I don't give a rat's arse about you comments to the contrary.I feel much better now.
I would love to see the double-blind test happen- with our stuff in the test to boot.
I understand JGH's comments, but I fully don't agree- there are plenty of manufacturers out there other than myself who still hold to the ideal of an exact reproduction of the original musical event. There are plenty of others who have gone for 'lush' as a byword- even when the music itself is not. I disagree in that I don't see that the entire industry has sold out. Just some, the way it is in any industry...
He did have Sound Labs at one point in the early 90s when I paid him a visit. His home was a mess, cigarette butts and ashtrays everywhere, equipment laying literally everywhere and piles of magazines and newspapers. The sort of thing where you didn't want to sit down anywhere and you kept your hands in your pockets so you don't getanyonyou. Steven Stone was attempting the Sisyphean task of cleaning the place up...
I'm glad JGH is retired. We did change the world for the better. We gave the little guy a chance against the powerful. The conservatives have taken power back with a vengeance.
We will soon learn the damge they have done. War, pollution, corruption, have expanded exponentially. We are on the edge of depression. The first thing to go-discretionary income. Goodbye high end.
His home was a mess, cigarette butts and ashtrays everywhere, equipment laying literally everywhere and piles of magazines and newspapers. The sort of thing where you didn't want to sit down anywhere and you kept your hands in your pockets so you don't getanyonyou. Steven Stone was attempting the Sisyphean task of cleaning the place up...
The irony is that Holt envisioned perfection in audio reproduction of a live event, and yet his personal habits and living space were anything but perfection.
I love it!
Einstein was a slob. Many a genius is so fixated on his pursuits that he neglects the details that govern the more anal amongst us. I saw his place on many ocassions and it was as Ralph describes it. He had Soundlab A-3s sitting out in the hall and a SOTA table with Well-Tempered arm out of use against the wall. At the time he was utterly ga-ga over an array of Tannoy speakers in a surround setup. He had hundreds of those large video discs (can't remember what they were called). He used Boulder amplification at that time.
All in all it looked like he was fairly preoccupied with his work. He's a total geek. And he was a gracious host. Certainly you could say he is old-fashioned. And you might well consider him a genius. I really liked the guy.
the sound of stereo systems is far removed and inferior to the sound of live music. it is that way now and was the same 30 years ago.
audio is a subjective, aesthetic medium. while there may be standards of sound quality, they too are subjectively imposed.
since it is all subjective, what one likes = quality.
don't confuse facts with value. quality is not objective. quality is assigned by human beings to a set of conditions. it is arbitrary and there is more than one concept of quality.
live and live and don't worry about what other people think. it is irrelevant. just enjoy the music, regardless of the judgment of others.
gordon holt's view is just one of many. he sounds very dogmatic to me.
"We've lost our direction....The High End in 1992 is a multi-million-dollar business. But it's an empty triumph, because we haven't accomplished what we set out to do. The playback still doesn't sound 'just like the real thing.'
My living room can never sound like Carnegie Hall or the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
Any notion that it can is naive at best and arrogant at worst.
Nor have we solved the common cold, cancer, aids, segregation, poverty, etc.
Some progress has been made.
If all I wanted was accurate music I would only listen to live music. I still enjoy our hobby after 30 years.
Is it me or people making too much out of Atmashperes' comments?
I was interested to learn about the Sound Labs....surely that was worthwhile. I enjoyed Macrojacks anecdote post too - great info on the TT and Tanoys.
I think a very messy room and smoking with cig butts everywhere is distasteful to many people (this was no doubt all Atmasphere meant)...it is, however, an anecdotal tidbit that adds color to the man who is somewhat of a legend in the audiophile niche world. So thx Atmasphere!
Any more on what gear he has used? I am interested considering he critically reviewed so many over such a long period. No doubt he owned many different components at different times - like many of us.